Govt faces political dilemma over planned teachers' strike SEBASTIAN MRINDOKO THIS DAY Dar es Salaam GOVERNMENT is facing a serious political dilemma in the midst of a nationwide teachers strike planned for Wednesday this week. Government thinking is that it cannot simply give in to the demands of the teachers and pay their outstanding arrears without verifying each individual claim. Yet if the state doesnt pay up by the October 15 ultimatum, thousands of teachers across the country will go on strike, a move that could have serious political repercussions for the government of the day. Although the government is adamant that it cannot authorize payments without verifying the claims following massive fraud detected in many of the documents, union leaders have dismissed such a move as a delaying tactic. But analysts say the deeper question is whether President Jakaya Kikwetes government can afford to allow the teachers to go on strike, a move that could trigger off thousands of workers in other sectors, such as public health, to follow suit. Teachers have declared a work stoppage demanding a pay rise and payment of long-standing arrears. To this effect, the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) yesterday dismissed repeated calls by the Minister of State in the Presidents Office (Public Service Management), Hawa Ghasia, for teachers to call off the planned strike. We have given the government ample time to address teachers problems, but it has not been showing any serious concern. Instead, the government has remained reluctant to pay teachers accumulated arrears, the TTU President, Gratian Mkoba, told THISDAY in an interview. He said the 60-day ultimatum given to the government to settle teachers arrears was coming to an end, while the key issues still remain unresolved. Union leaders rebuffed the governments position that the looming teachers strike was illegal, saying they followed all legal procedures needed for organizing a workersstrike and the government was well aware of every step taken towards it. We are ready for the strike ... No one and nothing will stop us from carrying out the strike country wide, he insisted. He added: Teachers all across the country are determined to stop working to put pressure on the government to settle their claims. Mkoba said teachers throughout the country have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strike action. All teachers throughout the country are determined to go through with the strike to send a firm message to the government that they are tired of unfulfilled promises regarding payment of the long accumulated arrears, he said. He said the negotiations between government and teachers over the payment of arrears started long a go and the government has been giving empty promises, thus showing lack of seriousness in addressing teachers problems. Minister Ghasia said at the weekend in an interview with the state television broadcaster, TBC1, that the planned teachers strike was illegal. She said a document signed recently between the government and TTU officials expressed clearly that teachers should not conduct a strike since the process of verifying teachers names and claims was still ongoing. The government says the verification exercise would take at least six weeks to be concluded. Government officials are busy going through teachers names and claims. After a month and a half, the process will be concluded and every claim will be paid, she added. The minister urged teachers to call off their strike since students were currently sitting for various examinations, while others were preparing for other exams. Any strike action this week will cause serious disruptions to the examination calendar, she warned. In the meantime, government insiders say authorities have encountered massive fraud in many of the claims lodged by teachers, including forgery of documents in order to claim payments from the state. Well-placed sources say the government had also uncovered thousands of names of ghost teachers in the claims as fraudsters aim to cash in on the exercise. Teachers who are proven to have forged documents will be taken to court to face criminal charges, cautioned a senior government official who asked not to be named.